Something lately about poker chatter annoys me. I've worked hard in
my game to let absolutely nothing at the table annoy me. I used to
get annoyed at rule infractions, people calling plain-old
“trips” a “set” and other such things that are
pointless that should never impact one's emotional state. Sometimes I get
overly annoyed at the way the club is running a table, but I at least
have the good sense to quit the game rather than keep playing when
annoyed. Ranting here is a way to vent it without putting it into
the table. So, here's one of those rants.
The term “cooler” is just being abused all over the place.
In other words, “cooler” is the new “nice hand,
sir”. People lose money and then like to argue that there was
no way they couldn't have gotten away from the situation where they
Since I have a few readers who aren't assimilated deep into poker
lingo, I should explain what the term “cooler” means
traditionally. (I suppose this explanation will offend my friend, a
lexicographer who works for the Oxford American Dictionary, but
someday, he and I will actually get to work on a real dictionary of
poker.) For the moment, I suppose I should refer to the mediocre (at
best) dictionary we have, which is Wiesenberg's
Official Dictionary of Poker. He defines cooler, and the original
term it's derived from, as follows:
- cold deck
- (n) — A deck, presumably with preset hands in it (usually with
several good hands, the best of which will go to the dealer or his
confederate), surreptitiously substituted by a cheat for the deck he is
supposed to be dealing. So called because, after cards are dealt for
awhile, they warm a bit to the touch, while a cold deck actually feels
cool. To bring in a cold deck, the thief must perform a switch. A cold
deck is also known as a cooler.
A literal “cold deck” was something you actually had to
fear in the old days. During the riverboat era of poker in the 1800s,
for example, poker was primarily a game of “cold decks” to
trick tourists. These days, encountering a crooked dealer working
with a player is rare indeed, and the terms are generally used
figuratively rather than literally — for situations that come up
where one player was doomed to lose the maximum to another.
And, like anything in poker, people latch onto the term as way to
excuse their own bad play. Most poker players will jump through hoops
to find a way to blame something or someone else for mistakes they've
made. The figurative use of the word “cooler” is just
that — a way to say,
What else could I have done? when
there often could be something else done.
For example, I've heard people call it a
cooler when their
out-of-position opponent flops a set when they have aces and bets into
them. I've heard people say having K-Q on a K-Q-T board is a cooler
when their opponent has KK, QQ, TT, or AJ. I've heard people say when
they have the King high flush against the Ace high flush, it's a
cooler. These situations are not coolers. They are
hands you can get away from if you play them correctly!
Heck, even the would-be classic HE cooler — AA vs. KK preflop
— isn't really one when the money is deep. When your opponent
puts in the fourth raise and you have KK, what else does he have? Is
he really doing that with QQ or AK? It's pretty hard for him to have
exactly the other two kings, after all.
The proverbial coolers are situations that you actually can't get away
from no matter what you do. Before you go running off saying it's a
cooler, take a close look at your play, ask a better player than you,
and try to figure out if you could have gotten away, or at least
played it slightly differently to minimize your losses.
Finally, though, for those of you who are guilty of abusing the term,
don't feel too bad, as there are pros that do it too. On one of the
episodes of GSN's High Stakes Poker with Phil Hellmuth, he
called off a massive amount with KQ on a K-Q-7 board when Greenstein had
77. Did he really think Greenstein would bluff at him? Or, that
Greenstein would get it all in with a mere AK? Of course it wasn't a
cooler, Hellmuth is just clueless in NL HE cash games.
Now, the real cooler I saw on that show is the most recent episode,
where Hansen held 5 5 and Negreanu holds 6 6. They built a preflop pot of
$11,800, and Hansen checked the flop of 9 6 5, Negreanu bet $8k, and Hansen
check-raised making it $26,000 to go. Negreanu just called.
The turn fell the “cooler card”, the 5.
Hansen bet out the turn for $24,000 and Negreanu
called. The river came 8.
Hansen smartly checked, probably hoping that Negreanu
had a straight, and Negreanu bet $65,000 out into
$111,700, Hansen check-raised for $167,000 more.</p>
Negreanu eventually called, but he even speculated at first,
might have the nuts here, then adding,
if I lose this pot
it's a cooler. Now, this probably was a cooler. The reason
being that there are so many hands that Hansen would play that way.
Hansen, as a loose preflop player, can have 58s (and was just
semi-bluffing on the flop), 56 (having flopped two pair and filled
on the turn), and maybe even some sort of straight holding (although
There are a few hands that fit the action that aren't 55, 99, and 88.
So, one could argue that it is really a cooler. Indeed, the fact that
Negreanu didn't automatically call the river check-raise is a tribute that
he can actually dodge the proverbial bullets.
Of course, an interesting postscript here for me is that I wrote most
of this post last weekend, and didn't get a chance to put it up. Since
have argued that Daniel could even get away from this hand that I was
about to hold up as the “quintessential cooler”. This just
goes to show how easily that term is abused. Even while digging carefully
for an example, I found a hand that there was some debate about.
Anyway, think twice or three times before you go calling something a
cooler. It probably isn't one most of the time.
Here endeth my rant; hopefully this is enough to get it out of my system
and stop me from ever thinking of it again. Of course, my goal is
for my opponents to think it's a cooler every single time I beat
them, so I will try hard not to point out what is and isn't a cooler
at the table.